BAGHDAD (AP) — Militants in Iraq launched an audacious attack on a military barracks in a remote area in the country's north and killed 20 troops overnight, including some who had been bound and shot at close range, authorities said Sunday as other attacks killed 18.
The killings at the military barracks in the village of Ayn al-Jahish outside of Mosul mirrored two previous assaults earlier this year in the area targeting security forces. It also represents the latest blow to the government's efforts to achieve stability in restive Sunni-dominated areas.
Gunmen staged the assault late Saturday night, two police officers said, shooting some at short range while others died fighting the insurgents when they stormed the barracks. A medical official, who confirmed the causality number, said 11 troops had their hands tied behind their backs and suffered close-range gunshots to the head.
The slain troops were in charge of protecting an oil pipeline that sends Iraqi crude oil to international markets and guarding a nearby highway. Attacks on the pipeline are common in that area near Mosul, located about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the barracks attack. However, it mirrored a February attack in the area claimed by the al-Qaida-breakaway group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. In that one, fighters from the group killed 15 soldiers at the barracks, beheading some of them. In April, militants killed at least 10 soldiers at a base outside of Mosul.
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city is a former insurgent stronghold. It was al-Qaida's last major urban stronghold in the country before U.S. troops wrested back in 2008. However, Sunni insurgent groups remain strong in the region long after the U.S. withdrawal from the country, challenging Iraq's Shiite-led government.
Recent attacks come amid a surge in violence to levels unseen in Iraq since 2008. Last year, Iraq saw its highest annual death toll since 2007 with 8,868 people killed, according to United Nations figures.
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